LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. April 14, 2018—More than 800 attendees paraded down a red carpet set amidst a starry night sky at Epcot for the 26th annual Chef’s Gala event, benefitting Heart of Florida United Way. They arrived hungry—and left with both full stomachs and hearts.
Delicious dishes and decadent drinks were just the beginning of this special evening, celebrated as the region’s premiere nonprofit food and wine-pairing event, and, more significantly, one of the largest annual fundraisers for Heart of Florida United Way. In just a single evening, hundreds of thousands of dollars were raised as donors took in the sights, sounds and tastes that filled the venue—all while learning more about the great work Heart of Florida United Way does in the community.
“Countless helping hands come together year after year to make this event possible,” said Jeff Hayward, president and CEO of Heart of Florida United Way. “The tremendous generosity of the attendees and all of our supporters in the community is key to our success in creating substantial change for Central Florida children and families. Having the beautiful Epcot as our backdrop is just the icing on the cake.”
In addition to the beautiful Epcot serving as a backdrop for the elegant affair, more than ten Walt Disney World restaurants participated in this year’s gala. Event guests enjoyed cuisine from favorites like Le Cellier Steakhouse, Cinderella’s Royal Table and The Hollywood Brown Derby. No matter the guest’s taste bud preferences, the event had it all.
“I was honored to bring a little hollywood flair to Chef’s Gala,” said Chef Craig Schleider, chef de cuisine at The Hollywood Brown Derby at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. “There is a lot of excitement at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in anticipation of our future, and seeing Heart of Florida United Way help to create a brighter future for our community was truly inspirational”.
Hosting the Heart of Florida United Way Chef’s Gala is one of the many ways Walt Disney World Resort and its Cast Members help serve thousands of Central Florida children and their families in need of improved education, health, income and other basic needs. Through Disney’s support, which also includes millions of dollars raised through an annual fundraising campaign and the expertise of executive board leadership, HFUW is able to positively impact the lives of more than 600,000 deserving children and families.
For decades, Walt Disney World Resort has remained committed to Central Florida, investing in our community in ways that directly improve the lives of children and families. We do this to infuse the same unique magic seen of our theme parks and resorts into the day-to-day lives of Central Floridians who need it the most, helping to strengthen children and families and bring positive, lasting change to the community. In 2017, Disney provided more than $34 million of cash and in-kind donations to local organizations, and more than 200,000 volunteer hours through the efforts of Disney VoluntEARS.